Maths and English Functional Skills Reform Programme – Consultation

Draft Subject Content for maths and English Functional Skills qualifications is open for comment and feedback HERE until Monday 12th September.

The Education and Training Foundation’s programme to reform Functional Skills is based on extensive research (conducted in 2015). This is being taken forward in a number of phases over the next three years. Significant work is already being undertaken by the Foundation on maths and English including workforce development (find out more on the ETF website).

The Reform programme started at the latter end of 2015. This web-area will be the main source of information on the work – it provides information and will carry updates and links to participation routes.

On this page you can find brief explanations on the Reform Programme consultation (with links to fuller details on separate pages) and links to other items and ways of participating.

Please share this website’s link ( with friends and colleagues and help more people have their say or tweet using #fsreform.

What’s happening?

Based on detailed consultations and research conducted in 2015, the Foundation, with its delivery partners – Pye Tait Consulting and Learning and Work Institute (LWI) – has embarked upon a set of consultations designed to achieve an up-dated set of Standards, Functional Skills subject content and, ultimately, Functional Skills maths and English qualifications, recognised and valued by employers.

The first stage of the research ran from mid-January to early April with employers and other stakeholders in the education and training sector. Employers could respond by phone or via an online survey. During the same period, a number of workshops and meetings were convened with employers, awarding organisations, post-16 learners, training providers, heads of departments & curriculum leaders, specialists, professional bodies and other stakeholders.

During the rest of April and early May, Pye Tait Consulting conducted the analyses of the employer survey (see here), interviews and events and drafting subject content documentation along with revising the National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards.

The practitioner/provider survey ran from 18th May until 24th June. This second stage of the research sought verification from the sector (including practitioners and subject experts) on aspects of the findings and draft outputs from the first stage.

Further activities will take place with the purpose of verification, before a final period of analyses and reporting, culminating in the Standards, subject content and final report being delivered to the Foundation at the end of August 2016.

The Foundation will then take forward the next phase of the Reform Programme, which will focus on new core curricula, and building on training materials and CPD for teachers and trainers.

More detail

Why is the reform taking place?

Functional Skills standards and qualifications have been in existence since 2010/2011 and although employers and learners are generally pleased with them, a number of potential weaknesses were highlighted by the 2015 research.

The Foundation’s review ‘Making maths and English work for all’ (MMEW) found that Functional Skills were not broken, but that work could be done to improve their relevance and content, as well as improve their recognition and credibility in the labour market. Please see MMEW infographic.

The government wants to ensure everyone has an appropriate opportunity to improve their maths and English skills and achieve a credible qualification that employers recognise (a full set of questions and answers, related to this reform, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is available here).

The Government is anxious to ensure that Functional Skills standards and qualifications are fit-for-purpose for the next decade and more.

How’s the consultation being organised?

The work is organised as a wide-ranging consultation using:

  • Online surveys for employers and stakeholders/practitioners
  • In-depth telephone interviews
  • Webinars
  • Workshops

Who should get involved?

This consultation is open to a wide range of individuals and organisations and provides a number of opportunities for people to contribute, including: employers, professional and industry bodies, employer representative bodies, unions, teaching and training practitioners, FE colleges, private training providers, offender learning organisations, adult learning organisations, subject specialists, awarding organisations and post-16 learners. Register your interest here.

When is it going to happen?

The two-stage consultation delivered by Pye Tait Consulting in conjunction with LWI started in January and will run until July 2016. All participation activities will have finished by the end of July. The findings report will be presented to the Government at the end of August 2016.

An underpinning objective for the Functional Skills reform programme is to update and improve the National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards.

Following completion of the employer consultation and survey of providers/practitioners, Pye Tait Consulting is collating those responses with expert body and individual views to produce a revised set of Standards which will help inform new/revised Functional Skills qualifications.

What are the intended outcomes?

The first stage of the Foundation’s wider Reform Programme will be completed by August 2016 and will result in a revised set of National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards, content for revised Functional Skills qualifications, and a report with policy recommendations to include:

  • what levels of Functional Skills are needed for life and work
  • the breadth of skills that the new qualifications should include
  • the number of guided learning hours needed to successfully achieve Functional Skills for learners on technical and professional programmes of study, including apprenticeships

These collated findings will be used to recommend improvements.